Strategic Management and Performance in Public Organizations: Findings from the Miles and Snow Framework

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Abstract

This article integrates the research evidence that applies Miles and Snow's strategic management framework to the performance of public agencies. Miles and Snow developed several strategy types, arguing that prospectors (searching for new approaches) and defenders (sticking with the existing pattern of services) are aligned with processes, structures, and the environment in ways that lead them to outperform reactors (awaiting for instructions from the environment), which have no consistent strategy or alignment. Six key lessons for the practice of strategic management in public organizations are provided based on a critical review. Findings point toward the importance of employing a mix of strategies in public organizations, contrary to Miles and Snow—a strong evidence base for the association between prospecting and defending and performance and for relationships between strategy types and processes and structures. However, no empirical evidence is provided for alignment across strategy, structure, process, and the environment. The findings, largely derived from the United Kingdom and United States, suggest that the most successful strategy recipe depends on the ingredients, and thus managers must pay attention to the connections between the outlined contingencies to generate the best results using the adopted strategy.

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